My very difficult mother is going to be 80 in a couple of months. Overall she’s in reasonably good health but I’ve noticed she is getting rather forgetful. Her fridge invariably contains out-of-date foods and recently she’s fallen over a few times.
Luckily she hasn’t hurt herself badly but I feel it’s time to plan for her future care. My two siblings live abroad and want very little contact with her. She’s never cared for us as I believe a mother should but now she needs more help she is trying to be nice to me. I know it’s an act not least because she can’t keep the façade up throughout a single visit. She believes I should make her my number one priority and become her carer which I am determined not to do. I dislike her as much as my siblings do but I have more of a guilty conscience. I live more than two hours drive away and have my own life. Nor do I think it’s right for a woman who was horrid to all her children then expect them to come running when she’s needy.
I’ve tried to discuss her future care several times, but she brushes it aside saying she is fine. I’ve also spoken to her GP who said we both know what she is like, in other words she’s very determined and unlikely to change, which wasn’t very helpful. Sheltered accommodation would be enough for now and I’ve offered to drive her round a few places but she won’t consider it. Her behaviour is so unreasonable that I too am tempted to walk away.
This is a very difficult situation for you to navigate. Dealing with an ageing parent is hard enough even when they are much loved and much trickier if they are horrid.
Ultimately unless a person lacks capacity only they can make final decisions about their care, but can take advice from whoever they choose. You are aware of her needs and have been looking at options. She is aware she should get help but thinks that you should be he one providing it. Until she understands that you won’t take on a caring role, she is unlikely to agree to any other options. So this is your place to start.
We suggest that you first think through your own motivations so you can offer her options that are in her best interests and not influenced by any residue feelings you may have to get your own back for her general unkindness in the past. It sounds as if so far you have managed, despite her behaviour, to be a dutiful enough daughter. Do try to continue to be so.
Then tell her as clearly as possible what you can and cannot do. If she doesn’t listen, you could get some brochures or visit some places and put the options put in a letter adding that you are willing to action any of them when she is ready. Sometimes it takes an accident like a fall or illness for an older person to face their reality and start to accept professional help.
Most older people have a wide range of concerns about their diminishing faculties and may feel anxious, confused, angry and resentful about their future. You mother’s behaviour may well get worse but try not to take this personally. Try instead to imagine her as a frail neighbour who needs some support. This might help you distance yourself from her general unkindness. Do think about offloading some of your frustrations to a friend and even your siblings and don’t feel guilty. You have shown your mother compassion and that you are also trying to help her as much as she will let you.